Today Salesforce and Google announced Force.com for Google App Engine.
Time Keeps on Slipping
Announcements around App Engine seem to be accelerating as time passes. Last month it was Java, and the Eclipse toolkit for Google App Engine. Since the Java release, open-source Java dynamic language Web projects have been moving fast to tweak their frameworks to run on AE. I don’t claim to know about all of them, but to date Open BlueDragon, Groovy/Grails, JRuby, and probably others have confirmed apps running in the wild on AE. If you’re interested in reading more, Gartner published a concise summary of what AE on Java should mean to you here.
All of this is important stuff, but the Salesforce announcement is arguably the most important from an application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) industry structure perspective. At the Denver-based Glue conference in mid-May, Peter Coffee, head of Force.com Platform Development, told conference attendees that “the downhill direction of the Cloud is not in favor of closed platforms,” and some in the audience were audibly skeptical – they didn’t think of Salesforce as an open platform, despite the availability of Salesforce APIs.
The announcement that Salesforce has partnered with Google to release a set of Java and Python libraries that enable integrating Salesforce from AE is proof that Peter Coffee wasn’t just turning our cranks. Developers can build AE applications that suck in (and write back) data from Salesforce. This means they can write more complex apps in Java that leverage existing investments in Salesforce CRM or Force.com custom applications.
Its a bold move. By partnering with Google in this way, Salesforce is publicly acknowledging that it does not own the application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) market. Furthermore, Salesforce management must know that AE is inherently more appealing to the hard-core application developer than the more simplified programming environment offered by Force.com. On the surface, you might think this means they’re giving up customers in order to become part of the larger Java developer ecosystem. On the other hand, would those developers have chosen Force.com to begin with?
Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in.
I believe that Salesforce knows that open is the way to go (as Peter Coffee told us at Glue). By hooking into Google’s promising AE offering, Salesforce is giving enterprises an opportunity to pull CRM initiatives launched outside of IT back into the fold, where enterprise developers can build custom Java applications that integrate and leverage Salesforce data. If this strategy works, it will also give Google AE a foothold into the enterprise on the back of Salesforce CRM.
Salesforce did a great job informing the aPaaS market. Today, they’ve told us that they don’t believe they own it.
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I think for salesforce this was a masterstroke. My interpretation of this move means following for SF.com
1. Make salesforce services affordable to the masses.
2. I’m sure; SF couldn’t have played with pricing models for existing customers. So what do you do when you have to attract a mass-market without disappointing the existing customers? Very simple, Tie up with a data/usage/trend hungry business like Google and co-host your services.
3. SF should be able to create a light version of SF.com (say salesforcelite) without heavily investing into infrastructure (the servers, software, data centers and people to support etc.)
4. Get the support of the huge developer community attached to Google App Engine.
What remains to be seen is how effectively, they will be able to handle the scaling/integration of proprietary to Open Source mindset.